Review: Indie Lee & Clean Beauty
For a while I was playing with the idea of transitioning my entire skincare routine to "clean" and "natural" brands only. After months of testing products and doing research, I have decided against it. But not because of Indie Lee. Actually, Indie Lee has been one of my favorite finds during this whole process. Let me explain. Indie Lee is the exception to a recurring pattern in my life in regards to skincare. I keep gravitating toward the concept of "clean" beauty only to hate what I find. What am I finding? I'm finding brands who harness fear mongering tactics to push their products. I'm finding brands who shun "bad" ingredients (parabens, sulfates, anything synthetic, etc.) only to fill their own products with "natural" ones (fragrant essential oils, natural dyes etc.) that are just as, if not more irritating to skin. (You may have noticed I keep putting words in quotations marks. I do this to highlight the fact the words "natural" and "clean" are not regulated terms and each brand who utilizes them will have their own definition of what they mean, so consumers are left to translate.) Basically, in my quest to find the best skincare products out there, I've found a bunch of bullshit.
Like I said earlier, Indie Lee is an exception to many clean brands I've been testing, and I will get to my review of her products soon, but first let me explain my findings of "clean" products a bit further. Inherently it's easy to gravitate towards brands who use terms like "clean" and "natural" as they imply safety, healthy ingredients, an eco-consciousness, overall wellness, and general cleanliness. The problem is "natural" isn't always good (arsenic is natural FFS) and "clean" is subjective. For example, parabens. Parabens are a preservative which are commonly used in just about everything to help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. In 2004 a study found trace amounts of parabens in 20 samples of human breast cancer. Since then, the beauty and skincare world has shunned parabens, deciding they cause cancer. Except, the research doesn't show this at all. The owner of Drunk Elephant, another popular skincare brand, was recently quoted on saying parabens are actually a good ingredient but she won't put them in her products simply because they've been demonized and people don't want them - and that worries me. Consumers need brands to lead the way with science and research, yet it seems the industry ebbs and flows with what consumers decide are dangerous based off very little evidence. Parabens are a single example of dozens of ingredients that sure, can be sensitising to some, but are not, in fact, dangerous to all. Sulfates are another demonized ingredient. I myself am sensitive to sulfates and avoid them when I can but I don't think they should be banned from the industry entirely, that's ridiculous. On the flip side of this, many "clean" brands use fragrant essential oils in the skincare citing their natural origins and healing properties. While they're "natural" it turns out essential oils are extremely sensitizing and can often do unseen damage. Personally, my skin absolutely cannot handle fragrant essential oils.
Ingredients are not one size fits all - as many have pointed out the dosage of an ingredient is what can take something useful and make it harmful. Overall I am disheartened to see ingredients being treated virtually like fashion trends (in today out tomorrow based off the customer's opinions) when there is so much research backing them. I don't want to go on and on about this and not get to the review I promised you, so I'll stop for now. I found two exceptional articles that outline everything I myself experienced and articulate it much better than I can. I will link them here and here and urge you to read them.
Back to Indie Lee and the beautiful products they gifted me. Indie Lee is still a clean/natural brand who avoids ingredients like parabens and sulfates in their products, however, they don't fear monger. They clearly state on their website the research regarding controversial ingredients is ongoing and they are simply using the "when in doubt, avoid" tactic. I appreciate that. I don't necessarily agree with it, but that's fine. Indie Lee herself is incredibly approachable and hands on with her brand and their customers. I've interacted with her a few times on her Instagram and she answers all questions with frank, refreshing honesty. Her team gifted me their Daily Skin Nutrition Moisturizer ($80) and their Daily Vitamin Infusion Serum ($65) to test and I have been using them for the past three(ish) weeks.
When I started using these two products my skin was going through some shit. I had a birth control pill mishap (got the wrong prescription) which left my hormones all over the place and left my face covered in acne and irritated blotches. It was a nightmare. Once I began using the Indie Lee line I did not have a single new breakout and if you caught my insta-stories about a week ago you may have seen that my skin looked the best it had in months. Both products feature many similar ingredients like squalane, rosehip seed oil, avocado oil, Vitamin E, & Vitamin C (in the form of Ascorbyl Palmitate) just to name a few. The primary focuses of this line are to soothe, brighten, and tone the skin as well as hydrate. I've been using both products together so I can't really speak to how they work alone, but I will obviously give my best impressions of each.
The Daily Vitamin Infusion is a classic oil. I found it to be neither heavy nor light and three single droplets (not droper-fulls) are enough for my full face and neck. I use the press and push method to apply, and it takes a minute to absorb. The oil has a very faint herbal smell to it, but it is almost undetectable and dissipates immediately. The Daily Skin Nutrition moisturizer feels like a classic lightweight lotion but also works best with the push and press method and needs time to absorb. I've definitely been forced to slow down the application of my products to allow time for these to sink in - which is probably something I should have been doing all along with all my products. It makes a difference. When I rubbed the lotion in (instead of the push/press) it would pill like crazy. Underneath makeup neither product worked with my Hourglass Vanish Stick Foundation - it was pill city. However once I switched over to a BB cream they were fine and the pilling ceased. Both products seem to play well with with my SPF. I won't lie - nothing about the experience of physically using the products stood out to me. I don't know why I care about texture so much but I've realized I'm someone who, if delighted by the feel of a product, will use it more routinely. (There is another product I started testing after these wherein the texture was a dream but the results were a nightmare, so I guess I've learned my lesson.)
In terms of results I'm extremely pleased. My breakouts cleared up and my skin tone began to even out. The persistent redness on my cheeks dissipated almost entirely. I did not notice the texture of my skin change much but we are only three weeks in, so that could still change. Overall, my dry, sensitive skin has found two new favorite products and I'm extremely interested in adding more of Indie Lee's product into my routine. I'm not necessarily convinced the fact these are "clean" products is what made my skin love them so much. They're well formulated, period. But if they had parabens in them I bet they'd work just as well. Frankly what matters is they work, I am thrilled with the results, and grateful for the opportunity to have tried them.
I kind of feel like I need to clarify I am not against the clean beauty industry and have no intention to boycott it as a whole or anything. There is plenty about the industry to celebrate and highlight and some of my HG products are "clean" (shoutout to Kjaer Weiss cream blush). So what do I like about clean brands? I like that they care so much. I have yet to find a clean brand who isn't cruelty free and I find countless clean brands have large platforms they use for charitable causes. I appreciate clean brands are transparent about their ingredients and where they source them (often more so than big box "non clean" brands are). Because at the end of the day while I don't think any single ingredient should be banned from all products, many people, myself included, have ingredient sensitivities and clean brands make it really easy to find whole ranges of products without said ingredients. For example, clean brands are often vegan and gluten free.
In the end, I have decided that going completely "clean" isn't for me. There is too much misinformation out there regarding what we should and shouldn't be putting on our face. Instead, I am going to take it a product at a time, scrutinizing the ingredients not for which are "clean" but for which I have personally found to be irritating to my skin or not. And frankly, I am really damn tired of all my products expiring in under 6 months because nothing has synthetic preservatives anymore. I love you, parabens, and I miss you.
Moving forward I'll continue to do research and try and stay informed via science not trend. I'm going to a dermatologist next month for some persistent skin problems (hyperpigmentation, melasma, etc.) and I'll let them help me make better product decisions and trust them to give insight into what is causing my skin issues. Basically, it all boils down to this: use caution and time to educate yourself about any product you want to put on your body - skincare is not one size fits all. I myself am not an esthetician or scientist, just a girl trying to decode a lot of big, scary sounding words on an ingredient list to find out which ones won't fuck up her skin.